By Michael Kitchen, MarketWatch
LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Asia stocks extended their gains into Wednesday, with most major markets ending higher, and with Japanese shares advancing as the yen hit its lowest levels against the dollar and euro since 2011.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -1.83% finished 1.5% higher, adding to its 1.4% rally on Tuesday.
Singapore’s Straits Times Index /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI +0.49% was up 0.5% in late trading, while the Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -0.17% ended with a 0.3% gain after a choppy, range-bound session following its 2.5% surge the previous day.
South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.71% and Taiwan’s Taiex lagged the region, with each closing little changed, while bourses in Hong Kong and Australia remained shut for holiday, with both due to reopen Thursday.
The gains for Japanese equities got help from a further decline in the yen, with the currency’s losses accelerating after the minutes from the Bank of Japan’s November meeting showed a dovish tilt and some determination to drive the yen lower. Read: Yen hits year’s low, with other pairs steady
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The weaker yen, in turn, helped fuel gains for exporter shares. Among the winners, Panasonic Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201785256/delayed JP:6752 -1.98% rose 2.8%, Fujitsu Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/208459594/delayed JP:6702 -0.25% /zigman2/quotes/208783738/delayed FJTSY +1.89% gained 4.1%, Advantest Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206869087/delayed JP:6857 -3.18% /zigman2/quotes/202479540/delayed ADTTF -7.38% added 4.2%, and Mazda Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 -8.17% /zigman2/quotes/206646681/delayed MZDAF -20.71% advanced 3.3%.
Shares of Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 -3.16% jumped 4% as a Nikkei news report said the firm’s Chinese sales had returned to the levels seen before a territorial dispute with China triggered protests and boycotts of Japanese goods there.
Brokerage shares also continued their winning ways from the Tuesday session, when they saw strong gains from reported foreign buying. Nomura Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206251373/delayed JP:8604 -0.77% /zigman2/quotes/207276383/composite NMR +0.30% advanced 2.8%, while rival Daiwa Securities Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201391978/delayed JP:8601 -0.60% /zigman2/quotes/206649614/delayed DSECF -0.0098% added 2.6%.
Hitachi Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203839937/delayed JP:6501 -3.61% /zigman2/quotes/203416411/delayed HTHIF +0.18% added 2.1% after its president told the Nikkei business daily that the firm may reorganize its medical business.
Sharp Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 -2.27% /zigman2/quotes/207472799/delayed SHCAF +0.53% more than undid its 7.5% tumble in the previous session to zoom 15.4% higher Wednesday, with a separate Nikkei report saying the company had developed a technology to recycle glass from used LCD panels.
On the downside, shares of Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
dropped 1.2%, extending losses from its recent vehicle-recall woes.
Over in Shanghai, real-estate shares stuck to their upward momentum after rallying Tuesday.
Shares of Poly Real Estate Group Co. /zigman2/quotes/201864015/delayed CN:600048 +4.17% traded 2% higher Wednesday, while rival Gemdale Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208026094/delayed CN:600383 +5.22% added another 2.2% to its share price.
China Vanke Co. , which saw its stock price jump 6% the previous day, placed its Shenzhen-traded shares on halt, pending an unspecified price-sensitive announcement.
Chinese banking shares — which were also a strong spot in the previous session — traded mostly lower, however, with Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202525815/delayed CN:601398 +0.46% /zigman2/quotes/204265987/delayed IDCBF -6.88% losing 1.5%, and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204629388/delayed CN:601288 +1.42% /zigman2/quotes/209398792/delayed ACGBF +4.83% down 1.1%.
In Seoul, many blue-chip shares rose early as investors returning from the Christmas holiday caught up with Tuesday’s regional rally. But by the end of trading, the market turned mixed, with some morning gainers swinging to losses.
Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 +0.95% /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF -29.70% , for instance, was up more than 1% in the early going, only to finish down 0.3%. Its shares had jumped more than 2% Monday in the wake of a report that it’s targeting an approximately 20% rise in its mobile-phone sales for the coming year.
Samsung’s chip-making rival SK Hynix Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206420319/delayed KR:000660 +2.85% HXSCL 0.00% closed with a 1.2% gain, while LG Display Co. /zigman2/quotes/204226570/delayed KR:034220 +0.42% /zigman2/quotes/204466928/composite LPL -1.45% advanced 0.5%, but LG Electronics Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209966407/delayed KR:066570 +0.77% /quotes/zigman/207964760/realtime LGEJY 0.00% lost 1.1%, and Hana Financial Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208370876/delayed KR:086790 -2.88% dropped 0.9%.